WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- "Clueless in Washington" was how The Economist, a British weekly read by movers and shakers the world over, headlined America's crisis in governance. Neither the president nor Congress shows any sign of knowing how to tackle the budget deficit.
A $1.6 trillion deficit for the current fiscal year to be followed by $1.35 trillion for the 2011 budget and an authorized increase of almost $2 trillion in the national debt to $14.3 trillion is a road map for a fiscal catastrophe. The last half-trillion-dollar spending bill signed by Obama included more than 5,000 earmarks worth some $7 billion -- pork funds forced upon the executive by legislators in return for their votes.
Deficits between now and 2020 are forecast to add up to $30 trillion. The total amount of U.S. dollars in circulation worldwide (known by the Fed as M3) is $14.3 trillion. Some financial and economic experts believe the Obama administration's remedial measures thus far are tantamount to slightly rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. In his new book "Freefall," Joe Stiglitz, a member of President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers, says, "In the Frankenstein laboratories of Wall Street, banks created new risk products without mechanisms to manage the monster they had created," while innovation simply meant "circumventing regulations, accounting standards and taxation."
Kevin Phillips, whose latest book -- "Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism" -- is an equally devastating indictment, writes, "The financial industry will most likely block any far-reaching overhaul, even though it will not be able to put its own broken Humpty Dumpty back up on the wall. That bleak conclusion may not be too far from what Joe Stiglitz himself thinks."
Obama is floundering as he tries to reset his presidency on economics. Defense is sacrosanct. Either taxes go up or entitlements go down, or both. On Capitol Hill, it's still burned toast for the president.
For centuries, leaders faced with insuperable domestic problems found escape in foreign distractions. In some cases, the distractions occurred suddenly and fortuitously, such as World War II, which started in Europe and pulled America out of the Great Depression.
Obama isn't looking for such a distraction, but others have no pangs illuminating what they think is the way out of the "clueless in Washington" dilemma. Right-wing scholar-activist Daniel Pipes, a neocon icon, could not be more blunt: Obama can "save" his presidency by bombing Iran. The fact that this could also cost him the presidency is not deemed worthy of discussion.
Pipes was in good company. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair now says the world may have to take on Iran as the mullahcracy and its Revolutionary Guards are more of a threat today than Iraq was when U.S. and British troops invaded in 2003. Blair, addressing a joint session of Congress, gave President Bush a powerful oratorical assist on the historical need to destroy Saddam Hussein's regime and its nuclear and chemical weapons. There was also much disinformation about an alleged alliance between Saddam and Osama bin Laden. At one stage, 60 percent of the American people believed the canard Saddam was behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed 3,000 Americans.
While under questioning by a British panel investigating his decision to join the U.S.-led war against Iraq, Blair kept coming back to Iran -- no less than 58 times. If Saddam hadn't been eliminated, Blair said, today Iraq and Iran would be competing in supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups.
Pipes, a powerful voice in Israel's corner, says Obama "needs a dramatic gesture to change the public perception of him … preferably in an arena where the stakes are high, where he can take charge, and where he can trump expectations." Such an opportunity now exists, to wit: "Obama can give orders for the U.S. military to destroy Iran's nuclear weapons capacity. It would have the advantage of sidelining healthcare, push Republicans to work with Democrats, make Tea Party-ers jump for joy, conservatives and neoconservatives would swoon ecstatically."
In 2003 President George W. Bush appointed Pipes to the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace. Today he is part of a powerful lobby in Washington that pooh-poohs the repercussions predicted by the Iran war naysayers, a group that includes three former U.S. CENTCOM commanders. Gen. Anthony Zinni, one of the three, says, "If you like Iraq and Afghanistan, you'll love Iran." They can see how one bomb on Iran would trigger the theocracy's impressive asymmetrical retaliatory capabilities up and down the entire Persian Gulf -- and beyond.
To reinforce the war party's arguments, Pipes also says, "the apocalyptic-minded leaders in Tehran" could eventually "launch an electro-magnetic pulse attack on the U.S., utterly devastating the country." His detractors dismiss EMP alarmism as flimflam. But they are wrong. EMP is a very real concern of those who ponder future asymmetrical threats.
In his latest book "One Second After," New York Times best-selling author William R. Forstchen looks at EMPs "and their awesome ability to send catastrophic shockwaves throughout the U.S. within seconds." One Scud-type nuclear missile, fired from the cargo hold of a freighter off the East Coast, set to explode 75 miles up, could fry everything electrical in one-third of the United States, from every cellphone and computer to aircraft, trains, vehicles, elevators, and the entire government, including the Pentagon.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak disappointed the war hawks by saying the inability to negotiate a peace deal with the Palestinians is a greater threat to the Jewish state than a nuclear Iran. National security adviser Gen. James L. Jones added Israel is acting "responsibly" on Iran and "we're working very closely with them."
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suddenly cooed too, offering the West its low-enriched (3.5 percent) uranium, then taking it back once enriched at 20 percent. Within 48 hours Iran's chief obfuscator was barking again, announcing the production of highly enriched uranium at 20 percent and the building of 10 new enrichment sites in 2010. Weaponization requires 90 percent. U.S. Defense Secretary Bob Gates said he is now certain Iran is going for the bomb and it's time for tough new sanctions. But Russia and China are not aboard.